previous stateIn recent years, the area between the Porta San Francesco and Porta Saragozza in the historic centre of Modena has undergone a sharp decline in the intensity of its social life and economic activity. Fieldwork carried out from a multidisciplinary perspective has revealed that, until not long ago, one of the most distinctive features of the area’s problems was the simple fact that, unlike other parts of the old city centre, pedestrians hurried through it without finding any reasons for lingering.
aim of the interventionAt the end of 2007, the City Council sponsored the initiative “Modena cambia faccia” (Modena changes its face) with the aim of bringing new life to the sector and redefining it by introducing a series of attributes that would enhance its appeal. With this in mind, entries were called for in a design competition that would bring ideas together. The neighbourhood was to change from being a transit space to become a destiny, a place to slow down and stay for a while. Among the winning proposals, the project named Chairsharing invited residents, students, workers and tourists to experience public space more intensely.
descriptionChairsharing is a public service that offers people the free use of movable chairs that provide Internet connection. They are equipped with a wheel and, since they weigh very little, they can easily be moved to any point in the neighbourhood. The metal structure, resilient and totally recyclable, supports two horizontal surfaces set at different heights. This means they can be used in different ways: as a seat with a backrest, as a chair with a working surface, or as a high stool.
Each chair is equipped with a WiFi antenna offering free access to Internet. A geographic positioning system based on triangulation prevents mislaying of chairs and enables users to locate them on a map of Modena that can be consulted on the Chairsharing website. Since the goal is to stimulate cultural and commercial activity in the neighbourhood, users need to have a customer loyalty card, which offers them certain advantages with different facilities and businesses. Besides showing the map and managing the customer loyalty card system, the Chairsharing website puts the user into contact with other systems in the city that are concerned with sustainable mobility and responsible consumption such as public bicycles, car pooling, car sharing, CouchSurfing (a hospitality exchange network) and community sustained agriculture (CSA).
assessmentLike street lighting, letter boxes, the increasingly scarce drinking fountains, and virtually extinct public phone boxes, Chairsharing is a public service providing the city with a facility that makes it more just and equitable. At a time when services of this nature are more and more subject to commercial exploitation, a project such as this one represents an interesting option for more widespread access to Internet.
Again, the kinds of relations that are favoured by the sense of belonging to a community are inundating this network in an exponentially progressive fashion and, accordingly, the urbs has ceased to be the only possible setting for civitas. This intervention, however, felicitously superimposes the digital network and the urban fabric, bringing benefits to both. If urban public space is enriched with the profusion of users who see it as a space for tarrying, in digital public space there is an interesting map of chairs that, as virtual landmarks, instantly reflect practices and uses that are occurring in the city.
David Bravo Bordas, architect